Opera

Grand tour of the Apple retail palaces of Europe: Paris

April 7, 2014: 3:16 PM ET

First stop on a five-city tour is a 134-year-old edifice across the street from the Paris Opera.

Photo: Apple

Photo: Apple

FORTUNE -- Here's the irony in the retail store Apple (AAPL) opened with such fanfare four years ago just north of the Place de l'Opéra -- one of the grandest squares in a city that has way more than its share:

Despite the millions spent renovating the 134-year-old marble and limestone edifice, the hours spent scrubbing away nicotine stains left by generations of chain-smoking bankers, the attention to detail that went into restoring the mosaic tile, the marble columns, the curving balustrade, the spiral staircases...

Photo: Apple

View from the balcony. Photo: Apple

Despite all this, Apple Store Opéra -- the first stop on a five-city tour of what I'm calling the Apple retail palaces of Europe -- gets less foot traffic than its less pretentious sister store in a basement mall under the courtyard of the Louvre.

Clicker in hand, I watched people entering the Opéra store at lunch time and counted 94 in a quarter hour -- or 6.3 per minute. A few hours later I did the same at the Carrousel du Louvre and counted 130 visitors in 15 minutes -- 8.6 per minute, or 37% more.

Visitors are not the same as customers, of course, especially in an Apple Store. But nobody is a store customer without first walking in the door.

Apple preserved the old bank vault door.

Accessories at Opéra are sold in the old bank vault

I had hoped to count how many iPhones, iPads and Macs Apple sold per hour at each store, but even if the company permitted it (which it doesn't), that's no longer possible. There is no caisse at either store. All purchases are now made either by self-checkout (using the iOS Apple Store app) or with the tricked-out iPod touches the staffers now wear on their belts.

I did attempt a quick snapshot count of how many people were fooling around with the different devices at each store Monday afternoon. Here's what I got:

Opéra:

  • iPhone: 8
  • iPad: 6
  • iPad mini: 4
  • Macbook: 4
  • iMac: 3
  • iPod: 0
  • Accessories: 11, with 7 waiting in line behind a velvet rope
Carrousel du Louvre.

Apple Store Carrousel du Louvre

Carrousel:

  • iPhone: 4
  • iPad: 2
  • iMac: 6
  • Macbook: 14
  • iPhone: 4
  • iPod: 4
  • Accessories: Too many -- and too scattered around the store -- to count

Neither store gets a fraction of the foot traffic of, say, New York City's Fifth Avenue store. But of the two, the mall outlet was the busier. The Genius Bar at Opéra was nearly empty; Carrousel had a long waiting list.

That makes sense. The Carrousel store, after all, sits outside an entrance to one of the world's most popular tourist attractions. School groups and other visitors pass by it every day by the thousands.

For more detail on Opéra, see Gary Allen's 2010 Opéra Store Raises Apple Retail Experience

Next stop: Berlin.

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